Here are some important guidelines to consider when working with a pregnant employee:
- Any employer with 15 or more employees is covered by state and federal pregnancy and disability discrimination laws. These laws require that the employer does not discriminate against a pregnant employee and that reasonable accommodations be made if the pregnancy becomes complicated and results into a situation that turns into a disability like gestational diabetes.
- A reasonable accommodation is something an employer can do to help the employee do their work without creating an undue hardship on the employer. They can include light duty, temporary reassignment, unpaid leave, disability leave, or temporary job redesign, etc.
- In order to avoid claims of discrimination, employers must ensure that employees are not adversely treated due to their pregnancy. Reasonable accommodations and the same benefits should be made to the pregnant employee as are made to other employees who have a temporary disability. Pregnant employees should be treated the same as other employees with medical conditions – the do not need to be treated better and definitely should not be treated worse.
- If the employee claims she cannot do certain job duties because of her pregnancy, the employer has the right to ask her to medically document her claims. The employer should ask the employee to have her doctor provide a statement of what job duties she can perform, what duties she cannot perform, and what accommodations may be needed for her to perform her job. It is important to remember that this requirement should be applied to all employees with a temporary disability.
- It is also important to follow medical information rather than what company managers think is appropriate or too risky regarding a pregnant employee’s job duties. (see UAW, et al, v. Johnson Controls).
This takes care of what to do when you are first working with a pregnant employee. The next step will be what to do with maternity leave which I will cover in the future.
Here is more information from the EEOC regarding pregnancy.